Conscious Choice cover

Now available in hardback and paperback as well as ebook!


From the press release: In this ground-breaking new history of early America, historian Robert Zimmerman not only exposes the lie behind The New York Times 1619 Project that falsely claims slavery is central to the history of the United States, he also provides profound lessons about the nature of human societies, lessons important for Americans today as well as for all future settlers on Mars and elsewhere in space.

Conscious Choice: The origins of slavery in America and why it matters today and for our future in outer space, is a riveting page-turning story that documents how slavery slowly became pervasive in the southern British colonies of North America, colonies founded by a people and culture that not only did not allow slavery but in every way were hostile to the practice.  
Conscious Choice does more however. In telling the tragic history of the Virginia colony and the rise of slavery there, Zimmerman lays out the proper path for creating healthy societies in places like the Moon and Mars.


“Zimmerman’s ground-breaking history provides every future generation the basic framework for establishing new societies on other worlds. We would be wise to heed what he says.” —Robert Zubrin, founder of founder of the Mars Society.


All editions are available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and all book vendors, with the ebook priced at $5.99 before discount. The ebook can also be purchased direct from the ebook publisher, ebookit, in which case you don't support the big tech companies and the author gets a bigger cut much sooner.


Autographed printed copies are also available at discount directly from the author (hardback $24.95; paperback $14.95; Shipping cost for either: $5.00). Just send an email to zimmerman @ nasw dot org.

SpaceX launches Arabsat communications satellite

SpaceX early today launched an Arabsat geosynchronous communications satellite into orbit, using its Falcon 9 rocket lifting off from Cape Canaveral.

The first stage successfully completed its fourteenth flight, landing on a drone ship in the Atlantic. The fairing halves completed their eighth and ninth flights respectively.

The leaders in the 2023 launch race:

35 SpaceX
19 China
8 Russia
5 Rocket Lab

American private enterprise now leads China 40 to 19 in the national rankings, and the entire world combined 40 to 34. SpaceX alone leads the rest of the world combined 35 to 34, but trails the entire world including American companies 35 to 39.

Leaving Earth cover

There are now only 4 copies left of the now out-of-print hardback of Leaving Earth. The price for an autographed copy of this rare collector's item is now $150 (plus $5 shipping).


To get your copy while the getting is good, please send a $155 check (which includes $5 shipping) payable to Robert Zimmerman to

Behind The Black, c/o Robert Zimmerman
P.O.Box 1262
Cortaro, AZ 85652


Leaving Earth is also available as an inexpensive ebook!


Leaving Earth: Space Stations, Rival Superpowers, and the Quest for Interplanetary Travel, can be purchased as an ebook everywhere for only $3.99 (before discount) at amazon, Barnes & Noble, all ebook vendors, or direct from my ebook publisher, ebookit.


If you buy it from ebookit you don't support the big oppressive tech companies and I get a bigger cut much sooner.


Winner of the 2003 Eugene M. Emme Award of the American Astronautical Society.

"Leaving Earth is one of the best and certainly the most comprehensive summary of our drive into space that I have ever read. It will be invaluable to future scholars because it will tell them how the next chapter of human history opened." -- Arthur C. Clarke

How 500 horses get to Mackinac Island each spring

An evening pause: As noted at this website:

The island was America’s second national park (after Yellowstone National Park) for 20 years and has been the state of Michigan’s first state park. The island has had a ban on automobiles since the earliest days and still has the only highway in the nation where cars are banned.

Apparently, during the winter the horses are taken to the mainland for their benefit, and then returned in the spring in preparation for the summer tourism season. As this is the Friday of Memorial Day weekend, the start of the summer season, this seems most appropriate for tonight.

Hat tip Wayne DeVette.

Pioneer cover

From the press release: From the moment he is handed a possibility of making the first alien contact, Saunders Maxwell decides he will do it, even if doing so takes him through hell and back.

Unfortunately, that is exactly where that journey takes him.

The vision that Zimmerman paints of vibrant human colonies on the Moon, Mars, the asteroids, and beyond, indomitably fighting the harsh lifeless environment of space to build new societies, captures perfectly the emerging space race we see today.

He also captures in Pioneer the heart of the human spirit, willing to push forward no matter the odds, no matter the cost. It is that spirit that will make the exploration of the heavens possible, forever, into the never-ending future.

Available everywhere for $3.99 (before discount) at amazon, Barnes & Noble, all ebook vendors, or direct from the ebook publisher, ebookit. And if you buy it from ebookit you don't support the big tech companies and I get a bigger cut much sooner.

May 26, 2023 Quick space links

Courtesy of BtB’s stringer Jay.





A fractured spot in Mars’ northern lowland plains

A fractured spot in Mars' northern lowland plains
Click for original image.

Cool image time! The picture to the right, cropped, reduced, and sharpened to post here, was taken on February 16, 2023 by the high resolution camera on Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO). It shows a pockmarked flat plain with a scattering of meandering hollows, each filled with ripple sand dunes that make these depressions resemble at first glance the tracks of tires.

Obviously, we are not looking at evidence of a past giant vehicle moving across the ground on Mars. The MRO science team labels these “fractures,” suggesting some past geological process caused the surface to crack in this manner, with those cracks widening with time due to erosion or sublimation.

The location of course tells us something about that process.
» Read more

Genesis cover

On Christmas Eve 1968 three Americans became the first humans to visit another world. What they did to celebrate was unexpected and profound, and will be remembered throughout all human history. Genesis: the Story of Apollo 8, Robert Zimmerman's classic history of humanity's first journey to another world, tells that story, and it is now available as both an ebook and an audiobook, both with a foreword by Valerie Anders and a new introduction by Robert Zimmerman.

The ebook is available everywhere for $5.99 (before discount) at amazon, or direct from my ebook publisher, ebookit. If you buy it from ebookit you don't support the big tech companies and the author gets a bigger cut much sooner.

The audiobook is also available at all these vendors, and is also free with a 30-day trial membership to Audible.

"Not simply about one mission, [Genesis] is also the history of America's quest for the moon... Zimmerman has done a masterful job of tying disparate events together into a solid account of one of America's greatest human triumphs."--San Antonio Express-News

NASA inspector general finds more cost overruns in the agency’s SLS rocket program

Surprise! Surprise! A new NASA inspector general report [pdf] has found that the agency’s SLS rocket program is continuing to experience cost overruns and mismanagement that are “obscene”, as noted in this news report.

An independent report published Thursday contained troubling findings about the money spent by the agency on propulsion for the Space Launch System rocket. Moreover, the report by NASA Inspector General Paul Martin warns that if these costs are not controlled, it could jeopardize plans to return to the Moon.

Bluntly, Martin wrote that if the agency does not rein in spending, “NASA and its contracts will continue to exceed planned cost and schedule, resulting in a reduced availability of funds, delayed launches, and the erosion of the public’s trust in the agency’s ability to responsibly spend taxpayer money and meet mission goals and objectives—including returning humans safely to the Moon.”

Things are really much worse than this, mostly because it appears the Marshall Space Flight Center that runs the SLS program for NASA uses cost-plus contracts, which are essentially a blank check for contractors to run up costs endlessly, all of which the government must cover, and allows the process to go over-schedule against its own regulations. Furthermore, the cost overruns are for rockets and engines that are not newly developed, but in use for decades by Northrop Grumman and Aerojet Rocketdyne.

Note that this really isn’t news. Anyone with any intellectual honesty at all will know that every aspect of SLS and Orion is mismanaged and will go over budget and behind schedule endlessly. These problems are not a bug, however, but a feature of the system. The goals of SLS and Orion are not really to build a rocket to explore the solar system but to create an endless jobs program in congressional districts here on Earth. This misguided approach meanwhile robs America of a viable space effort because the money wasted could have actually been used to jumpstart a viable and competitive space-faring economy that actually achieves something.

Northrop Grumman wins $45.6 million contract to launch Space Force weather smallsat

Northrop Grumman has won $45.6 million contract from the Space Force to launch a weather smallsat, using its Minotaur-4 rocket that was formerly a military ICBM.

The weather satellite, built by General Atomics, is part of an effort by the military to stop building its big expensive and continuously delayed weather satellites and instead buy the services from the private sector. This three year demonstration mission will prove whether General Atomics’ weather satellite can do the job. The Space Force has also contracted with Orion Space Systems to test its own weather satellite in orbit.

For Northrop Grumman, this contract helps keep its launch business alive while it awaits a new American engine for its Antares rocket, replacing the Russian engines it has previously depended on.

Satellite fuel company Orbit Fab signs Impulse to build part of its fuel depot

The satellite fuel company Orbit Fab, which is offering a way for satellites to get refueled on a regular basis based on a firm price schedule, has selected the orbital tug company Impulse to build part of its fuel depot in advance of a demonstration refueling mission for the Space Force.

The Space Force last year awarded Orion Space Solutions a $50 million contract for the Tetra-5 experiment. Three satellites will be stationed in geostationary orbit (GEO) where Impulse Space’s Mira orbital service vehicle will serve as a hosting platform for Orbit Fab’s fuel depot. “This demonstration will pave the way for future commercial orbital refueling services, as well as additional collaborative opportunities and missions between Orbit Fab and Impulse Space,” said Barry Matsumori, chief operating officer of Impulse Space.

The Tetra-5 satellites and the fuel depot will use Orbit Fab’s refueling port known as RAFTI, or Rapidly Attachable Fuel Transfer Interface. Impulse Space will provide hosting services such as power, communications, attitude control and propulsion for the fuel depot. The Tetra spacecraft will rendezvous and dock with the depot.

If successful, this mission will prove the viability of this refueling system, and encourage other satellite manufacturers to include RAFTI on their satellites.

Betelgeuse continues to fluctuate in unexpected ways

An optical image of Betelgeuse taken in 2017 by a ground-based
telescope, showing its not unusual aspherical shape.
Click for original image.

After the star’s light dimmed for almost a year in 2019 to 2020 due to what astronomers believe was a dust cloud that was released from the star, it has continued to fluctuate differently than in the past.

Now, it is glowing at 150% of its normal brightness, and is cycling between brighter and dimmer at 200-day intervals – twice as fast as usual – according to astrophysicist Andrea Dupree of the Harvard-Smithsonian Centre for Astrophysics. It is currently the seventh brightest star in the night sky – up three places from its usual tenth brightest.

The astronomers believe the star is recovering from the ejection of material from that 2019-2020 dimming, its gas bag shape bouncing in and out like a blob of water floating in weightlessness. They also think it might take five to ten years for those reverberations to settle down.

Betelgeuse, a red giant star, is theorized to go supernovae sometime in the next 10,000 to 100,000 to a million years.

NASA’s corrupt safety panel doubts Starliner is ready for its first manned flight in July

The head of NASA’s safety panel — which over the years has consistently missed the big safety issues while whining about things that did not matter — expressed strong doubts yesterday on whether Boeing’s Starliner manned capsule is ready for its first manned flight in July.

Speaking at a May 25 public meeting of the Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel, Patricia Sanders, chair of the committee, expressed skepticism that NASA and Boeing will be able to close known issues with Starliner in time for a launch currently scheduled for as soon as July 21.

“There remains a long line of NASA processes still ahead to determine launch readiness” for the Crew Flight Test (CFT) mission, the first crewed flight of the spacecraft with two NASA astronauts on board. “That should not be flown until safety risks can either be mitigated or accepted, eyes wide open, with an appropriately compelling technical rationale.”

This panel hasn’t the faintest idea what it is talking about, and should be ignored. It appears that NASA and Boeing are presently reviewing the capsule’s parachute system. Sanders however raised other issues which actually appear more designed to simply slow or even prevent the capsule’s launch.

The panel did the same thing during the development of SpaceX’s manned Dragon capsule, making irrelevant claims about paperwork and the safety of the company’s Falcon 9 fueling procedures that were ridiculous. Meanwhile, it has ignored much more fundamental numerous safety issues with NASA’s SLS rocket and Orion capsule, such as the agency’s plan to fly it manned using its capsule environmental system for the first time.

It is very possible that there remain serious safety issues with Starliner. I simply note that I would not rely on NASA’s safety panel to provide me an honest or educated appraisal of the situation.

Vulcan launchpad static fire engine test aborted

ULA engineers were forced yesterday to abort their first attempt to complete a launchpad static fire engine test of the first stage of the company’s new Vulcan rocket due to an issue with “the booster’s ignition system.”

[D]uring the countdown at Launch Complex 41 Thursday afternoon, ULA teams “observed a delayed response from the booster engine ignition system,” the company said in a statement. The issue meant that countdown procedures ahead of the ignition of two Blue Origin-built BE-4 engines at the business end of the company’s new rocket had to be halted.

The roughly 200-foot rocket will have to be rolled back into ULA’s nearly 300-foot protective Vertical Integration Facility for technicians to assess the booster’s ignition system.

It will obviously be necessary to attempt this static fire test again before attaching the rocket’s solid-fueled side boosters, which suggests the launch’s tentative target date in June is likely threatened.

These kinds of issues are not unexpected prior to a rocket’s first launch. ULA however is now paying for the three-plus year delay imposed on it by Blue Origin’s delays in delivering the BE-4 engines used in that first stage. These pre-launch tests had been planned for 2020, not 2023. Let us hope that ULA engineers don’t rush these tests now, because of those Blue Origin delays.

Ispace publishes results of its investigation into Hakuto-R1 lunar landing failure

Hakuto-R1 impact site, before and after
Before and after images of Hakuto-RI, taken by Lunar Reconnaissance
Orbiter (LRO). Click for original blink image.

Ispace today published the results of its investigation into the failure of its Hakuto-R1 lunar landed to touch down on the moon successfully, stating that the cause was a software error which thought the spacecraft was closer to the ground than it was.

At the end of the planned landing sequence, it approached the lunar surface at a speed of less than 1 m/s. The operation was confirmed to have been in accordance with expectations until about 1:43 a.m., which was the scheduled landing time.

During the period of descent, an unexpected behavior occurred with the lander’s altitude measurement. While the lander estimated its own altitude to be zero, or on the lunar surface, it was later determined to be at an altitude of approximately 5 kms above the lunar surface. After reaching the scheduled landing time, the lander continued to descend at a low speed until the propulsion system ran out of fuel. At that time, the controlled descent of the lander ceased, and it is believed to have free-fallen to the Moon’s surface.

The company believes the software got confused when the spacecraft crossed over the rim of Atlas Crater.

The resulting crash produced the debris seen by LRO to the right.

Virgin Galactic completes first manned suborbital flight in two years

Virgin Galactic yesterday completed its first manned suborbital flight since July 2021, carrying six employees to about fifty miles altitude for about five minutes.

Virgin Galactic’s “mothership” aircraft, VMS Eve, took off from the runway at Spaceport America in New Mexico at 11:15 a.m. Eastern. The takeoff occurred more than an hour behind a schedule provided by the company the day before, but the company did not disclose the reason for the delay.

Virgin Galactic released VSS Unity at 12:23 p.m. Eastern. The spaceplane appeared to perform a nominal burn of its hybrid rocket engine before descending to a runway landing back at Spaceport America nearly 15 minutes later. Virgin Galactic said the vehicle reached a peak altitude of 87.2 kilometers — above the 50-mile altitude used by U.S. government agencies for awarding astronaut wings, but below the 100-kilometer Kármán line — and top speed of Mach 2.94.

The company did not live stream the event, in sharp contrast to the heavy coverage it always provided when Richard Branson was in charge. It now says it soon begin regularly passenger flights.

Rocket Lab’s Electron rocket lifts two more NASA hurricane monitoring satellites into orbit

Rocket Lab today successfully used its Electron rocket to place the last two of NASA’s four-satellite Tropics hurricane monitoring constellation into orbit.

The first launch occurred about two and a half weeks ago, on May 7, 2023. Both launches were originally contracted to Astra, but when that company discontinued operations of its Rocket-3 rocket, NASA turned to Rocket Lab.

The leaders in the 2023 launch race:

34 SpaceX
19 China
7 Russia
5 Rocket Lab

The U.S. now leads China 39 to 19 in the national rankings, and the entire world combined 39 to 33. SpaceX by itself now trails the entire world, including American companies, 34 to 38.

Note that at this moment SpaceX and Rocket Lab are the only American companies that have launched. The established rocket companies, ULA and Northrop Grumman, have launches planned but none as yet, while two American companies have ceased operations, Astra (supposedly temporarily) and Virgin Orbit (permanently).

American freedom resulted in the competition in rocketry which has lowered costs but taken business from the established companies. Freedom has also caused the death of two companies, because the success that freedom brings also carries risks. Failure can happen, but the sum total of achievement is always greater than when competition is squelched.

The eroding north wall of glacial-filled Harmakhis Valles

The north wall of Harmakhis Valles
Click for original image.

Cool image time! The picture to the right, cropped and reduced to post here, was taken on February 8, 2023 by the high resolution camera on Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO).

We are looking at the 2,400-foot-high cliff, its lower walls clearly cracking horizontally as they sag downward, with other large sections higher up appearing to have been eroded away in larger pieces.

Yet, the ground below this cliff wall appears to have no debris piles, the kind you would expect below a landslide. Instead, that ground appears to be very glacial in nature, with many linear parallel lines suggesting layers.

The overview map below provides us the context, and an explanation as to where that debris has gone.
» Read more

South Korea successfully launches its Nuri rocket for the second time

The new colonial movement: South Korea today successfully launched its home-built Nuri rocket for the second time, lifting off from a coastal South Korean spaceport and carrying eight smallsats.

This was South Korea’s first launch this year. The leaders in the 2023 launch race remain the same:

34 SpaceX
19 China
7 Russia
4 Rocket Lab

The U.S. still leads China 38 to 19 in the national rankings, and the entire world combined 38 to 33. SpaceX by itself now trails the entire world, including American companies, 34 to 37.

Hat tip to BtB’s stringer Jay for reminding me of this launch.

As parents and students continue to flee public education the consequences are both good and dire

“But Brawndo’s got what plants crave. It’s got electrolytes!”

Two recent stories have clearly illustrated that the abandonment of the public school system, from kindergarten to college, is continuing unabated. It appears that the Wuhan lockdowns and mask and jab mandates helped to open the eyes of many parents and students as to the ineffectual and often harmful teaching going on in these institutions.

We begin with the precipitous drop in children attending K through 12 public schools.

Public school enrollment declined by 1.4 million students between fall 2019 and fall 2020, dipping to 49.4 million, a loss of nearly 3 percent, and remains at the lowest point in more than a decade. The decline could be closer to 2 million, according to a survey by Education Next showing that traditional public school enrollment as a percentage of all school enrollment declined sharply between 2020 and 2022.

Enrollment in traditional public schools fell from 81 percent to 76.5 percent of total enrollment during that period, while enrollment in public charter schools, private schools, and homeschooling grew by a combined 4.5 percent.

Those numbers suggest that nearly 2 million students left traditional public schools for other educational options between 2020 and 2022. The findings are based on the May 2022 survey of a national representative panel of more than 3,600 American adults commissioned by Education Next.

The abandonment in the last three years by so many parents of the public school system can be attributed to three things. » Read more

Watch a still brightening new supernova only 20 million light years away

A new still brightening supernova has been discovered in the Pinwheel Galaxy, also known as Messier 101, only 20 million light years away, one of the closest such supernovae in years.

The discovery was made on May 19, 2023. Because the supernova is so close, it was discovered very early in its explosion and is still brightening to maximum. It is also an object that ordinary amateur astronomers can spot using their own telescopes. The Pinwheel Galaxy is located in the Big Dipper, making it a good target for amateurs in the northern hemisphere.

A live stream of the supernovae, dubbed SN 2023ixf, is also being broadcast today by the Virtual Telescope Project, and will be available here starting at 3 pm (Pacific).

No supernovae have occurred within our own galaxy, the Milky Way, since the invention of the telescope, so any such event in a nearby galaxy is an important opportunity for astronomers to learn more about these explosions.

Nova Scotia spaceport gets another launch contract

Maritime Launch Services, which is building a spaceport in Nova Scotia and hopes to offer its own rocket services to put satellites in orbit, has obtained what it claims could be a $1 billion contract with an unnamed European orbital tug company.

The only two European orbital tug companies that closely fit the description provided by Maritime officials are D-Orbit or Exolaunch. The latter had had a contract with Virgin Orbit to launch as many as 20 of its satellites. Coming less than one day after Virgin Orbit’s assets were sold off, this announcement suggests Exolaunch has replaced Virgin Orbit with this deal.

Unlike other spaceports, Maritime isn’t merely providing a launch site for rocket companies. Instead the company will also launch smallsats itself, using either Ukraine’s Cyclone-4M rocket or a British-made startup rocket dubbed Skyrora.

Relativity and Impulse are now targeting ’26 launch window for 1st private mission to Mars

According to officials from the two companies, Relativity and Impulse have now delayed the launch date of their joint private unmanned lander to Mars from the ’24 launch window to the ’26 launch window.

The companies have also shared few technical details about the lander, but noted they plan to leverage designs and technologies developed for NASA’s InSight Mars lander, such as its heat shield. “We’re not trying to reinvent the wheel,” Brost said. “Doing a clean-sheet design of a lander is an insane, monumental engineering feat.”

Relativity is tasked with launching the probe, using its Terran-R rocket, which is under development and has its first launch scheduled in 2026. Impulse, which is building the lander, is at this point simply trying to develop its first small rocket engine. It appears therefore that this proposed Mars lander is designed mostly to make NASA willing to consider it when it starts hiring private companies to land probes on Mars. Its chances of launching in ’26 is quite small.

SuperBIT high altitude astronomical balloon completes mission

SuperBIT image of Antennae Galaxy
The Antennae galaxy, one of four SuperBIT images released.
Click for original image.

After almost forty days circling Antarctica and taking high resolution images of galaxies and nebula, NASA SuperBIT high altitude astronomical balloon completed its mission today, landing in Argentina.

Having identified a safe landing area over southern Argentina, balloon operators from NASA’s Columbia Scientific Balloon Facility in Palestine, Texas, sent flight termination commands at 8:37 a.m. EDT, May 25. The 18.8-million-cubic-foot (532,000-cubic-meter) balloon then separated from the payload rapidly deflating, and the payload floated safely to the ground on a parachute touching down in an unpopulated area 66 nautical miles (122 kilometers) northeast of Gobernador Gregores, Argentina. NASA coordinated with Argentine officials prior to ending the balloon mission; recovery of the payload and balloon is in progress.

During its nearly 40-day journey, the balloon completed a record five full circuits about the Southern Hemisphere’s mid-latitudes, maintaining a float altitude around 108,000 feet. In the coming days, the predicted flight path would have taken the balloon more southerly with little exposure to sunlight, creating some risk in maintaining power to the balloon’s systems, which are charged via solar panels. The land-crossing created an opportunity to safely conclude the flight and recover the balloon and payload.

The picture above, cropped, reduced, and sharpened to post here, has incredible resolution, illustrating the advantage of flying a telescope on a high altitude balloon.

May 24, 2023 Quick space links

Courtesy of BtB’s stringer Jay.



Knobs on the floor of a Martian caldera

Knobs on the floor of a Martian caldera
Click for original image.

Cool image time! The picture to the right, rotated, cropped, reduced, and sharpened to post here, was taken on February 14, 2023 by the high resolution camera on Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) and shows what the scientists have dubbed as “enigmatic knobs” located on the caldera floor of a Martian shield volcano.

The knobs themselves, while puzzling, aren’t that interesting on their own. They are no more than 100 to 200 feet high, and are relatively featureless. Since most lack a pit at their peaks, they are probably not some form of small volcanic vent, though this conclusion is uncertain. The location, at about 30 degrees south latitude, suggests the faint possibility of near surface ice, which could make these mud volcanoes, or a very specific Arctic-type permafrost mound dubbed pingos, but once again the lack of any central pit at their peaks makes these origins also doubtful.

What the knobs however revealed to me was a giant Martian shield volcano I had never noticed before, even though it was hiding in plain sight.
» Read more

Spaceport startup launches small amateur rockets from ship

A company dubbed The Spaceport Company on May 22, 2023 launched two small amateur rockets from a ship in the Gulf of Mexico in order to demonstrate the logistics of such launches in advance of developing a floating launchpad.

The Spaceport Company, based in northern Virginia, launched on Monday 4-inch and 6-inch diameter rockets from a vessel about 30 miles south of Gulfport, Miss. The one-year-old company wanted to demonstrate its operations and logistics, which included getting approval from federal regulators, before developing larger floating platforms that would send satellites into orbit.

These offshore launches, as small as they were, were the first such ocean launches in U.S. history.

It appears that the company wants to offer an alternative launch option that might avoid the problems created by regulators in the UK that destroyed Virgin Orbit.

Launch of Sierra Space’s Dream Chaser now scheduled for six month window opening in August

After years of delays, Sierra Space’s first Dream Chaser reusable mini-shuttle, dubbed Tenacity, is now scheduled for launch during the six month mission to ISS of a crew scheduled for launch in August.

Dream Chaser’s first flight on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket is expected while Crew-7 is aboard and two of those crew members, NASA’s Jasmin Moghbeli and JAXA’s Satoshi Furukawa, recently trained on it. JAXA and NASA formally announced Furukawa’s assignment to Crew-7 today. Furukawa, Moghbeli, ESA’s Andreas Mogensen and a Russian cosmonaut whose assignment has not been officially announced yet, are expected to launch in mid-August for a 6-month stay on the ISS.

The exact launch date within that mission has not yet been determined. It will largely depend scheduling, fitting it in with other launches to the station, assuming Tenacity’s construction is finished in time. That construction began in 2015, and has taken three to four years longer than first announced.

Bankrupt Virgin Orbit is dead, its assets purchased by a variety of different companies

After failing to find a single buyer for the whole company, Virgin Orbit is now officially dead as a company, its assets broken up during bankruptcy proceedings and purchased by several different companies.

Rocket Lab paid $16.1 million for Virgin Orbit’s main manufacturing facility in California, which it intends to use for developing its larger Neutron rocket. Stratolaunch paid $17 million for the company’s 747 airplane and related equipment. Launcher, a former rocket startup that is now owned by the space station startup Vast, paid $2.7 for the company’s test site in Mojave, California, which it plans to use for static fire engine tests of a rocket engine it is developing for sale to others. A liquidation company purchased other assets, while the various LauncherOne rockets under construction remain unsold.

It is essential the reasons for this failure are made very clear. The destruction of this company occurred because regulators in the United Kingdom prevented it from launching from within the UK for almost half a year, during which it could not perform other launches elsewhere and therefore earn revenue. It then ran very low on cash, and when the UK launch failed in January, the company no longer had the resources to weather to time necessary to complete the investigation, fix the problem that caused the failure, and resume launches.

For other rocket startups, it is very important to consider this story before committing to launching in the UK. where you will face major bureaucratic obstacles from its government. Until there is evidence that something has changed, it might be better to consider other launch sites.

1 2 3 946